Alice Greenberg-Sheedy, manager of the Alzheimer’s/dementia caregiver program for Jewish Family Service of Central New Jersey (JFS), noticed one of her clients was in a combative mood.
He was participating in one of her monthly gatherings for those with early-to-moderate Alzheimer’s/dementia, and she knew exactly how to calm his spirits. She played a selection of his favorite genre of music and said he immediately assumed a more positive mood.
“We want the clients to feel as good as they can about themselves and have as many positive experiences as they can,” she told NJJN in a telephone interview. Greenberg-Sheedy has worked at JFS for three years and is a licensed social worker and certified dementia
“Alice has just been special with her clients that way,” said Tom Beck, JFS executive director. “Her compassion and tireless work on behalf of our Alzheimer’s and dementia clients has been exceptional.”
Beck credited Greenberg-Sheedy with creating two innovative programs at JFS — the weekly Coffee House for people with memory loss and their caregivers, and the Monthly Memory Café, which began in Elizabeth and expanded to Westfield. She also organizes family support groups in partnership with Alzheimer’s New Jersey and has spoken at conferences and written on the importance of “Care to the Caregiver.”
“She just took control of everything,” said Beck.
In July Greenberg-Sheedy received a Lester Z. Lieberman Award for Humanism in Healthcare by the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey for her creativity, compassion, humility, and dedication in her work on behalf of Alzheimer’s clients and their caregivers.
“We have to help the caregivers as much as we can,” she said. “They are dealing with family and people they love, and we know it is not always easy. I know what demands are put on both our clients and, as importantly, their caregivers.”
The weekly Coffee House, which is held Monday mornings at the JFS site in Elizabeth, is a social and recreational program for people affected by mild-to-moderate memory loss due to cognitive changes caused by a stroke or a type of dementia. It features discussions on subjects such as current events, art, and history.
The program, which has a registration fee of $40 per week, encourages social interaction and aims to strengthen physical and cognitive skills. The Coffee House gives clients a chance “to involve themselves in several opportunities in a safe, comfortable facility,” said Greenberg-Sheedy. “We also offer a kosher lunch. It’s an opportunity for our clients to be social. The program both reduces our clients’ feelings of isolation and gives the caregivers a break.”
The Coffee House is funded by the Brookdale Foundation, Merck’s Neighbor of Choice Grant, and the Wallerstein Foundation for Geriatric Life Improvement in West Orange.
When Greenberg-Sheedy’s Memory Café, a free monthly program for individuals with early-to-moderate Alzheimer’s/dementia and their caregivers, was first announced, it quickly filled up with 25 people, prompting JFS to open a second location at Lavy House Senior Resource Center in Westfield. Musical entertainment and a light kosher lunch are key facets of this program, which is funded by JFS, Temple Emanu-El in Westfield, and private donors.
“I was impressed with the work JFS was doing before I joined the agency and pleased I was given an invitation to be part of what the agency does,” Greenberg-Sheedy said.
She came to JFS from Trinitas Regional Medical Center in Elizabeth. She received multiple masters’ degrees from Rutgers University, including human resource management and social work, and a certificate in
She is married to Matt Sheedy, has three children, and is a member of the Conservative Oheb Shalom Congregation in South Orange.
Call 908-352-8575 for information on Alzheimer’s or dementia programs at JFS.
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